Now in its 44th year, it continues to promote a dazzling selection of delicious foods and beverages. We have a lot to look forward to in 2019.
Here are some of the trends that stood out for me:
§ The redundancy between EXPO West and Fancy Food exhibitors continues to exist. While it offers companies the opportunity to connect with buyers twice within 60 days, it also reflects the premium profile of the healthy shopper. This overlap was strongest in alternative grain and dairy products as well as the plethora of functional beverages.
§ Flavors from the East making a big splash. After years of salsas and Pan Latin offerings dominating the landscape, it seems innovative offerings this year came from Asia and Northern Africa. Complex sauces as well as heat and eat meals unlocked the mystery of both far and near eastern cuisines but with the added bonus of coveted convenience.
§ A new type of crunch in snacks. Pops, crisps and freeze-dried products offered less greasy and lower salt variety in snacks. Many had international roots, both in sourcing and current use, but had been astutely tailored to the American palate. Move over chips and nuts, there are new types of crunch coming to grocery shelves.
§ Greek food is more than just firm yogurt. Having just vacationed in Greece this year, I was excited to see some of the things I loved most about Greek cuisine. Oregano spice blends sprinkled on popcorn (Oregano is a flavor of Lay’s potato chips in Greece), frozen bougatsa (luscious custard and phyllo dough pastry), layered Greek main dishes and real, extra creamy whole milk yogurt.
§ The squeeze bottle brought added convenience to new condiments and cooking products. Smart marketers took a page out of the ketchup playbook to make it easy for shoppers to add more interesting flavor to their food.
§ It’s not a cup of noodles, it’s premium ramen. One of the most basic mainstays of teenagers has gone upscale. Fresh as well as dried, wheat as well as gluten-free, with flavorings and without, for soup or as main meal – there were many wonderful choices.
§ Cheese and salumi categories are strong and growing. There were a dizzying number of products in these categories. Cheese tasting could be a sport and definitely a thematic party idea. However, it is also a tough category to sample without getting filled up too quickly so I have little flavor insight to share in this area.
§ Desserts….yep, we all still love them. Nicely packaged, single serve, premium ingredients and more sophisticated flavors continue to dominate the fancy dessert market.
§ Online only sellers. Despite the multitude of distributors attending the show, there were companies that were only interested in a future of selling products direct. They wanted to avoid the mosh pit of the retailers’ requirements and recognized their premium price points would require giving up a significant amount of margin in exchange for placement.
Now, let’s talk innovation. It’s the fun stuff, isn’t it? It’s tough to narrow it down to a few but here's my short list.
Frozen slices of sweet potatoes that go in your toaster.
As these smart marketers at Vegolutionary Foods (who launched CauliPower products) say on their sell sheets, “the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread.” Naturally flavorful and sturdy, it’s a ready substitute for bread and offers a similar level of versatility.
Available in 24 different varieties -- ranging from more popular almond and sweet potato flours to more unexpected ones such as apple and beet. They were packed in 16 oz containers that look like ice cream pints for retail. They are also available in larger quantities for foodservice.
A beautifully packaged snack product in both sweet and savory flavors. A popular item in India, these pops are imported and were deliciously flavored to meet the American palate (Chipotle Lime, Chocolate Sea Salt, Maple Caramel, Truffle Salt).
Sampling hot chocolate made with this luscious product, they made it easy to see how much flavor was delivered in each spoonful. The labels are gorgeous and the product line delivers on the 'butter coffee' idea embraced by Paleo loyalists. Coming soon are single use On-the-Go packets.
Nicely packaged, this popular Taiwanese snack line delivers a flavorful new idea for those wanting higher protein, gluten-free snacks.
The squeeze bottle astutely brings added convenience to cooking with liquid broth concentrates and sauces. The home cook no longer needs to use both hands to spoon out bouillon concentrates from jars or to rip open a spice packet or a broth can. With the added flexibility to use as much or as little as you want, these products are truly a ‘game changer’ in your kitchen.
Four product lines: Liquid broth concentrates; Organic Bone Broths; Wicked Juicy Burger Seasonings and Wicked Tasty Taco Seasonings.
Adding to its first offering, Njuda Spicy Prosciutto Spread, they introduced 2 new interesting flavors – Pesto Bianco and Pancetta that are packed with flavor and versatile enough to use directly on a cracker or even as a pizza topping.
Not fried. No oil. No added preservatives. Simply crispy and crunchy fruit crisps. Available in interesting flavor blends – Guava Purple Yam Banana, Purple Yam Banana Coconut, Mango Sweet Potato Banana, and Jackfruit Pineapple Banana.
Jackfruit got my attention as a savory substitute for meat at last year’s EXPO so I was intrigued when I saw it freeze-dried as a snack. It's not new but I'm calling attention to it as jackfruit remains relatively unknown to the average consumer and it offers tremendous versatility for manufacturers.
This is one of the varieties in a line of crunchy freeze-dried products sold by this company.
This lusciously creamy yogurt feels like the real deal – no artificial sweeteners, thickeners or preservatives.
Joanne Haase is the Principal of the Haase Consulting Group, a strategy and research consultancy focused on consumer products. www.HCGMarketScope.com